The Sudanese Armed Forces’ recent airstrike over Omdurman has claimed at least 22 known casualties, only further enunciating the growing political strife that the nation’s army bears with its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The four-month protracted conflict between the two groups has engendered over 3,000 deaths and 6,000 injuries, according to Sudan’s minister of health, and has displaced more than 2.2 million people, with approximately 700,000 of them crossing to neighboring North African countries, according to the International Organization for Migration. While global discussions in the hope to mitigate conflict are now being organized, underlying tensions ultimately seem to be interfering with deriving swift and productive solutions. According to the New York Times, for instance, the international meeting held in Addis Ababa to broker a ceasefire, despite assembling a myriad of international leaders/officials from nearby African countries, the U.N. Saudi Arabia, and the United States, was boycotted by Sudan’s army because of rising suspicion that Kenyan president William Ruto held partisan views.
The Horn of Africa project director at the International Crisis Group Alan Boswell notes that “we are entering a new phase of the conflict where this is now becoming a war over supply chains”. While the Rapid Support Forces always held a greater presence than the nation’s army in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Bahri, they have taken over vital resourceful sites like the Yarmouk munitions factory, the Wadi Saeedna air base, the south Khartoum and Omdurman Central Reserve Police bases, and the airport and oil refinery in El Obeid. With escalating conflict, the Rapid Support Forces intends to essentially pave an easier avenue to bring more troops and equipment into the capital from their stronghold in Darfur.
Much of the violence between the Sudanese factions precipitates from the Rapid Support Forces’ decades-long controversy. According to ABC News, the group evolved out of the Janjaweed militias that were employed by the Sudanese army to essentially commit war crimes and eliminate a growing armed rebellion in the Darfur region in the early 2000s. While Sudan’s former ruler Omar al-Bashir who led the Sudanese forces was charged with genocide, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan upheld the new position as Sudan’s de-facto ruler (now head of the Sudanese Armed Forces) with Hemedti at his side (now head of the Rapid Support Forces). While the two men were allies and jointly worked together in 2021 to derail Sudan’s power-sharing government, underlying tensions ultimately culminated when Hemedti believed to have been deceived by Burhan and that the overthrow of the transitional government was primarily to serve old-regime figures. The generals’ main disagreement currently boils down to how much time the RSF should take to be disbanded and integrated into the army. While Burhan insists on two years, Hemedti demands over a decade.
Neither military group is satisfied with backing down as continued attacks seem to be igniting and catalyzing further tension. While foreign powers like the United States are concerned about what prolonged conflict within Sudan could mean for the international sphere, it is difficult to predict how much influence they will truly have. The conflict will either end with a winning side and not achieve Sudanese democracy or will continue and extend wider with ramifications traversing Sudan’s borders, according to ABC News. Unless the conflicting forces can strive to dismantle their deep-rooted tensions and incongruencies as the international community has repeatedly encouraged, chaos and suffering will be the end result in any circumstance.